In addition to productivity increases and cost savings, Fujifilm is promoting what it says is the only flexo energy cured or drying system on the market that produces virtually no heat with its ColdCure design. Fujifilm has co-developed the Illumina LED curing system with its ink chemists to serve as a one-stop shop for the entire process, from the equipment to the inks.
“We believe the latest innovations in the inks and the Illumina LED ColdCure system we are selling–as a retrofit or via OEM’s–has brought us past the tipping point where LED will become the preferred choice for most of the tag and label flexo market,” explains Jon Fultz, business development manager at Fujifilm. “The primary benefit is we have removed the significant risk factor for converters of not knowing if the LED curing system will perform with the LED inks they would convert to.
“The ColdCure technology of Illumina is a completely differentiated disruptive technology specifically for flexographic printing that is enabling a mass transition to LED in the same way water-based transitioned to UV more than 30 years ago,” he adds.
Customer feedback has been substantial thus far. According to Fujifilm, one of its first Illumina customers has opted to convert its entire facility to solar power based on the energy savings generated with Illumina. The company has also been able to eliminate the power needed to run air extractions systems while reducing the load on the air conditioning system.
“Honestly, feedback has been much better than we had even hoped for,” states Fultz. “Although we have only been on the market for 2.5 years, almost 1/4 of the customers that retrofit one press initially have already converted other presses. Re-orders are the best customer feedback there is. Some accounts have now converted their entire press fleet to Illumina and 300 Series inks. We have become aware of many more benefits than originally thought because of the ColdCure technology that eliminates heat from the flexo printing process altogether.”
Fultz notes that energy costs have been reduced by 92% compared to UV and 75% from water-based drying systems. It’s important to note that all of the conventional LED systems on the market reduce energy only by 50% with water-cooled systems and 75% with air cooled systems, so Illumina's energy savings are significantly more than conventional LED,” he says. “This further improves the ROI and shortens the payback period.”
The new Fujifilm technology has eliminated the need for chill rum rollers, providing the capability to convert shrink sleeves without adding chill drum rollers to an existing press. Due to the heat factor, Illumina has a 30,000-hour projected LED life compared to 20,000 hours for conventional LED and 1,000 hours for UV arc lights.
“We’ve also had customers comment about how Illumina brings jobs into registration much more quickly on heat sensitive film substrates, as the dimensional stability of the film is no longer impacted by heat,” says Fultz. “This saves on wasted substrate and labor, and increases the efficiency of the press. There are literally zero web breaks due to heat since installing Illumina.”
From an ink perspective, Fujilm has optimized its 300 Series to work in tandem with Illumina. The 300 Series was launched three years ago. Compared to UV, Fujifilm’s LED inks offer 92% energy savings, lower maintenance and odor, and the elimination of VOCs, ozone and mercury. When compared to water-based inks, LED provides a 75% reduction in energy to run the press and runs by as much as double the speed (see video below for more). The inks also deliver greater color density and opacity than water-based, as well as high opacity and a coefficient of friction on last down white for shrink sleeves.
“Compared to LED inks of the past, cure speeds and breadth of adhesion range have been significantly improved, especially when used with the Illumina system,” says Fultz. “The price premium that once applied to LED inks has also been eliminated as the 300 Series is a hybrid ink running as UV or LED, so there is no premium when running it as LED.”
In addition, Fujifilm has added to the 300 Series LED/UV ink range metallics, fluorescents, extended life pigment options, adhesives, expanded gamut process set and several specialty coatings. The company has expanded the range to include a complete set of LED/UV inks for rotary screen, too, and all these inks can be cured with LED or conventional UV arc.